January 23, 2004
The background research leading up to Orkut.com

Instantly super-hot, this article, published last year, reveals some of the background studies leading up to this week's launch of Orkut.com:

A social network caught in the Web

"Lada A. Adamic and Eytan Adar of HP's Information Dynamics Lab and Orkut Buyukkokten of Google applied scale-free network metrics to the social network of an online community, poked the social network in various ways, and discovered juicy stuff. HP researchers created a Friendster-like online social network, then mined it for information about the real-life social networks it reflected. After the online community, "Club Nexus," had been cooking for a couple of months, the researchers asked participants to rate how "trusty," "nice," "cool," and "sexy" every one of their buddies were, on a scale of one to four. The plot thickened."

(via Don Park)

A lot of the concepts discussed in the article (full PDF here) are found again in orkut.com, like the optional interest-adding fields, the Karma component (rank friends on trutworthiness, coolness, "sexiness") and more. One can only wonder what a treasure trove of data mining COULD be applied on this data (see relationship-graphs screenshots in the article) in the future.

Of course, there is a lot of trust involved in such an experiment - then conducted academically - now commercially by Google. I wonder if most people won't be more prudent in handing over very personal information to a corporation than to researchers, but hey - let's have fun!

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